My favorite day of advent is unquestionably the last day, when we celebrate the birth of Christ. There is equally little question about my second favorite day, the eighteenth day, when our family celebrates another miraculous birth, the birth of our son Elliott.
Seven years ago this morning a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy became the most frightening complication a family can imagine. Katie was rushed into an operating room amidst far more questions than answers to what would happen next. Within moments, she lay on the operating table, me by her side, both of us filled with worry and confusion about the eerily quiet and lifeless baby on the table next to her.
Elliott was born with "little more than a heartbeat". But every day I thank God for the little more, because it was the only inspiration Dr. Knelson and his team needed to pour their hearts, overflowing with determination to lay a baby into the open arms of parents who had been waiting nine months to hold their dream come true, into our son.
In the process of getting Elliott's heart beating, his lung collapsed. But for hours, Dr. Knelson and a chorus of angels drew an everlasting portrait of never give up. When they had him just healthy enough, Elliott boarded a helicopter for a quick trip from Morehead City inland to the ECU hospital NICU. There, he was cared for by some of the most incredible people I've ever met. And on Christmas Eve 2008, we brought Elliott home. Our own Christmas miracle.
Today, Elliott is so much more than a heartbeat. Even though he doesn't have a complete understanding yet of the miracle he was that day, I proudly say he has always treated the people around him as if he has some sixth sense of what happened that day. Like everyone he encounters had some small role in his opportunity to be with them today.
And because of Elliott, my life will always be much more than a heartbeat. He helped me understand my world isn't about waiting on miracles, but opening my eyes wide enough to take in the ones that happen in my life every day. Elliott's brother Ian came into this world a couple of years later under much less stressful circumstances for mom and dad and all who remembered that tension-packed day Elliott was born. Yet, there are so many things about that boy that are miraculous themselves. His laugh, the likes of which I've never had a chance to hear before. His hugs that can still catch me completely off guard, always coming at just the precise second I need one.
It is also a miracle that these two boys have had the chance to share in the love of a mom who is unconditionally loving, patient, and all-giving. Elliott gave me the opportunity to witness the incredible creatures God has given us in mothers. What I got only brief glimpses of in the beautiful nurses that loved and cared for Elliott in the hospital and the NICU, I get to take in daily now through his mom. In my eyes they are all saints.
And thanks to Elliott and Ian, I understand more than I ever could have the miracle of a God who sacrificed his son to say he loves me. There is so much mystery, so much I don't understand about my God, but the one thing I do know is this. He knew the most compelling part of his story would be the birth of a baby whom he would one day watch die a brutal death. The fact that He could see into my heart and know there is no stronger human connection than a parent to their baby, and know beyond a doubt that baby and that cross would draw me nearer to Him, that is the greatest miracle of them all.
That is the Christmas miracle.